Canadian survey backs softer marijuana laws as activist vows ‘political revenge’

Canadian survey backs softer marijuana laws as activist vows ‘political revenge’

A new national survey has found that more than two-thirds of Canadians want the country's marijuana laws to be softened, and the federal government could probably just ignore the poll results except they were the ones who commissioned it.

The poll, which found that 70 per cent of Canadians think marijuana should either be legalized or decriminalized, flies in the face of the Conservative government hard-line stance on pot, and reaches the public eye as one of the country's most vocal advocates vows "political revenge."

"Most of Canada and most of the United States favours legalization and this is going to come to pass," Marc Emery, a B.C. pot activist who was recently released from U.S. prison, told CBC News in an exclusive interview.

Details of the Ipsos Reid survey were released online by the Department of Justice on Wednesday, detailing a public stance that defies what the Conservative government has been maintaining in recent years.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, 37.3 per cent of Canadians say marijuana should be legalized and 33.4 per cent say it should be decriminalized by making possession of small amounts of pot punishable by a fine rather than a criminal record.

Only 13.7 per cent say the pot laws should stay the same, and 12 per cent said they should be strengthened.

The survey lends support to a position held by the Liberal Party of Canada, which argues in favour of legalizing marijuana, similar to what has happened in the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado, to improve government oversight of the drug. The NDP support a form of decriminalization, while the Conservatives maintain the drug should be illegal.

[ Related: Trafficking offenses down amid Canada’s creeping acceptance of marijuana ]

Interestingly, the survey questions about Canada's position on marijuana laws were part of a $175,000 Ipsos-Reid poll conducted in January and February, which also included questions about the public's position on prostitution.

The details from the prostitution questions were publicly released in June, before Justice Minister Peter MacKay introduced new legislation on the subject.

The marijuana poll results seem to have been kept largely quiet until recently. The Toronto Star obtained a copy of the results in mid-July, noting that the poll had been "kept secret by the Conservatives for months".

The Conservatives have remained steadfast in their opposition to loosening pot laws, although there has been some discussion of accepting a request by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which formally requested that officers be given the option of ticketing for marijuana possession, rather than either ignoring the offender or dragging them into the court system.

Still, the Conservative Party of Canada has made Trudeau's desire to legalize marijuana a focus of their political attacks, attempting to paint it as a desire to feed drugs to children.

Indeed, a MacKay spokesman responded to the Citizen's questions about the poll by saying Trudeau would “fully legalize recreational marijuana, which would make it easier for kids to buy and smoke in their neighborhoods, like cigarettes today.”

The Liberal's stance is that legalizing pot would give the government more control over who is obtaining it, much like alcohol or, sure, cigarettes.

The latest survey results are basically in line with previous polls done on the subject. An Ipsos survey conducted in 2012 found that 66 per cent of Canadians approved of decriminalization, and a 2013 survey found that 70 per cent were in favour of softer laws, with a similar 36 per cent/34 per cent breakdown between legalization and decriminalization.

Meantime, there is Emery's inevitable return to Canada. Emery was sentenced to five years in American prison in 2010 after being found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, stemming from a mail order business through which he send seeds across the border.

Emery spoke to CBC News this week and said he blamed the government for turning him over to the American government for a something that should not be illegal.

"The whole thing is nonsense. I should never have been turned over to the U.S. government," he told the network. "My own government betrayed me and I'm going to wreak an appropriate amount of political revenge when I get home and campaign against the Conservative government."

It's not clear how much sway that vendetta will carry, but with the public's stance on marijuana laws more line in with Emery than the government, he is sure to find a few followers.

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